Anti-Racism is the Only Catholic Response
After the recent death of George Floyd, Pope Francis sent a strong message to U.S. Catholics condemning the "sin of racism" and asking us to pay attention to the racism that is happening in our own communities and churches. According to the Holy Father, "We cannot close our eyes to any form of racism or exclusion, while pretending to defend the sacredness of every human life." As Catholics, our faith upholds the principle that all humans are created in the image and likeness of God. As baptized Christians, we are called by Christ to uphold the value that everyone deserves dignity.
Anti-racism begins with recognizing our own (and our church's) sin of racism and prejudice. In the late 1970's the U.S. Catholic Bishops wrote a pastoral letter explaining, "racism as an evil which endures in our society and in our Church. Despite apparent advances and even significant changes in the last two decades, the reality of racism remains." In 2018, the Bishop's again wrote a pastoral letter Open Wide Our Hearts, the Enduring Call to Love stating:
"consistently, African Americans have been branded, by individuals, society, and even, at times, by members of the Church, with the message that they are inferior. Likewise, this message has been imprinted into the U.S. social subconscious. African Americans continue to struggle against perceptions that they do not fully bear the image of God, that they embody less intelligence, beauty, and goodness."
The Bishops explain "to understand how racism works today, we must recognize that generations of African Americans were disadvantaged by slavery, wage theft, Jim Crow laws, and by the systematic denial of access to numerous wealth-building opportunities reserved for others."
As a Church, now is the time to ask the uncomfortable questions of ourselves. Do our ministries include and welcome all people? How are we promoting tolerance and inclusion in the Body of Christ? Faithful and responsive ministry with young people promotes the skills, attitudes, and behaviors that youth will need to be disciples and Christian leaders in our diverse church and society. This includes a special responsibility to address the evil of racism and prejudice. Therefore, our ministry offerings must provide education, spiritual formation, and open and honest reflection on the issues of our time including racism, privilege, and prejudice.
Let us also not forget that the greater faith community can learn much from young people about cross cultural communication, tolerance, and peace building.
Youth Ministry Access Resources
This undoubtedly difficult moment in our nation's history calls Catholic to justice and solidarity. Consider using one of these Youth Ministry Access (YMA) youth sessions below to explore and respond to racism in faith.
- Racism: Is Your Catholicism Color-Blind? by Lisa-Marie Calderone-Stewart (high school)
- Poverty and Racism: America's Challenge by Sean Lansing (high school)
- Love One Another: Responding to Racial Prejudice by Ansel Augustine (middle school)
Looking for more resources?